This is one of those passages of Scripture that is difficult. You read it and you wince. It’s a song that the Jews would sing as they walked up the hill to Jerusalem, and it’s all about God judging their enemies. And it isn’t pretty. Look what the last half of this Psalm says:
May all who hate Zion, be put to shame and turned backward, let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it grows up; with which the reaper does not fill his hand, or the binder of sheaves his bosom; nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord.”
I’ve heard preachers say things like, “I can’t wait until (name of some famous evil person) burns in hell.” Like we don’t deserve that as well. What do we do with Scripture like this? We cannot reject it, because it is Scripture. It should create a tension within us. Yes, sinners who are not forgiven by God must be punished because God is holy (and thus cannot stand sin). On the other hand, God does love people who He created in His image. What did He do about it–how did He resolve this tension between His holiness and love?
The cross of Christ.
On the cross, God’s wrath for sin was satisfied. Jesus suffered the penalty for sin in our place, thus opening up the door for us to be reconciled to God. But only those who’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ will be reconciled to God. Those who do not–those who “hate Zion” (if you hated Zion–Jerusalem, the city of God–then you hated God)–will still suffer the judgment of God… which is only fair.
So how do we live out this tension? We must recognize the holiness of God (which isn’t popular these days). God cannot just sweep sin under the rug and forget about it. He must punish it. Right now, that seems harsh. But when we stand before God at the end of time, we will understand better than we ever have and we will agree with God when He releases those who rejected Him to an eternity of judgment in hell.
We must also recognize the love of God. God doesn’t want anyone to die. He wants everyone to repent. But it is a decision each person must make (which is why church planting, evangelism, multiplying church planting/Jesus movements, and missions are so important). God’s love moved Him to sacrifice Jesus on our behalf. He gave His family–the church–the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to those who do not know Him.
What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot do is sit on our butts and think, “Those dirty rotten sinners will get what’s coming to them.” Lest we forget… we’re dirty rotten sinners, too… saved by the grace of God.
Are you living out the divine tension?